Half way through my journey home to Athlone yesterday by bus, my phone rang. The caller display was unpopulated. Number withheld. I questioned whether I should answer it. I chose to. I pressed a button and held the phone to my ear.
“Hello,” I said sheepishly.
A deep, heavily-accented, male voice responded. “Hello.” The accent was Eastern-European.
“Eh, hi.” I could hear nervousness in my voice.
“Who is this?” asked the male voice gruffly.
“I’m Stephen. Who are you?”
“I am Tony.”
“Hi. Where did you get my number from, Tony? I don’t think I know you.”
“You called my phone late on Tuesday night,” said Tony. “Why did you call my phone?”
I stammered. “Eh, I don’t know why I would call your phone. I can only imagine I dialled a wrong number. I am sorry about that, if it is the case.”
“OK,” said Tony.
“Is that it?” I questioned. I felt brave.
“Yes,” said Tony after a slight hesitation.
“Good bye, Tony” I said firmly. I hung up.
I put down my mobile. A chill ran down my spine. Who the fuck was that? The mysterious, deep, accented voice unnerved me. I stared out the window, admiring the eskers of Westmeath. I allowed my brain process recent events. My thoughts were interrupted. My mobile rang again It was an 085 number this time.
I answered. “Hello?”
“This is Tony again.”
“Hello again, Tony.”
“I feel bad about calling you. I have to be honest. I was checking my wife’s mobile and your number was a missed call on Tuesday night.”
“Are you accusing me of having an affair with your wife, Tony?” I asked him.
Tony laughed. “I am a very jealous guy. I found your number and I stressed.”
“Well Tony, if it is any relief to you, I am not the type of guy that would be into your wife. I am on a bus at the moment. I can’t really elaborate on that.”
He laughed again. “I understand.”
“So you weren’t in Angels on Tuesday night?”
“Angels?” It was my turn to laugh. “As I just said, Angels wouldn’t be my type of place. Does your wife work in Angels, Tony?
“Yes, she did until recently.”
“Wow,” I responded.
“I am very sorry for bringing this on you.” He sounded genuinely apologetic.
“Don’t worry about it. Take care of yourself.”
With his parting words I hung up.
I sat on the bus smiling like an ostracised weirdo. That was hilarious. I had just been accused of having an affair with some guy’s wife. Out of curiosity I checked my dialled numbers. I found an unknown number in the directory. I remembered dialling incorrectly Tuesday night. I dialled 087 instead of 086. It was very Sliding Doors.
I texted Tony: “Hi, Tony. I found your wife’s number in my phone. It genuinely was a wrong number. You are very lucky to have such a beautiful wife!”
Tony replied. “How do you know my wife is beautiful?”
“I figure she dances at Angels and receives a lot of male attention to warrant your jealousy. It figures!”
I felt cheeky. “You’re probably hot too. Enjoy your beautiful wife, Tony.”
“Enjoy your life. You are a good person.”
One incorrect digit in a telephone number put me in contact with a lap dancer from Angels. This lap dancer happened to have an insanely jealous husband. I clutched my mobile in my hand, asking myself if the events of the last ten minutes were real.